In November, voters in Maine approved a ballot measure that blocks plans to develop a transmission line to deliver hydroelectric power from Canada to Massachusetts and the rest of the region.
Two months after that vote, Massachusetts was hit by a powerful “bomb cyclone” that brought 70-mile-per-hour gusts, more than 30 inches of snow, mass power outages, and school and business closures. It ranked among the top 10 storms with the highest snowfalls to hit the Boston area since the National Weather Service began keeping such records in the late 1800s — seven of which have occurred just within the last two decades.
These two events, occurring in short succession, demonstrate both the perils of climate change and just how fragile that state’s existing plans are to combat it.
Last year, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a landmark climate bill to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Canadian hydroelectricity would supply only a fraction of the clean energy we need to reach that ambitious goal. Rather than relying on imported renewable energy from across the border, Massachusetts must develop a source of affordable and abundant clean energy on our own shores — or rather, off it.
Offshore wind energy can help us realize our emissions reduction goals, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and transform Massachusetts into a clean energy exporter.
It is by a coincidence of nature that Massachusetts has the largest technical potential for offshore wind development in the country. Our strong prevailing winds and shallow coastal waters allow for highly productive wind turbines that can be placed far offshore. In fact, Massachusetts has the capacity to produce one-third of President Biden’s 2030 national offshore wind development goal.
But the development necessary to establish an industry capable of taking advantage of this natural capacity doesn’t happen by accident, and certainly not overnight.
Massachusetts embraced offshore wind in 2016 by passing clean energy legislation that ultimately resulted in the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm. That Vineyard Wind project, when it’s connected to New England’s power grid in 2023, will power 400,000 homes, create 3,600 jobs, and save the emissions equivalent of taking 325,000 cars off the road for a year. That project represents just one-seventh of the total offshore wind procurement requirement the Legislature has set for 2027.
But Massachusetts is starting to lose its early lead. Neighboring states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to attract offshore-wind-fueled economic development.
It’s time for Massachusetts to regain our position as regional leader and to bring those clean energy jobs to Massachusetts workers. And the Massachusetts House of Representatives intends to do just that.
“An Act advancing offshore wind and clean energy” is carefully calibrated to attract world-class manufacturing facilities, intensive workforce training initiatives, and the investment necessary to prepare our electric distribution system for the energy needs of the future. And we will do it all by building an industry that minimizes potential impacts on our maritime industries and coastal environment, while maximizing the benefits for our environmental justice communities.
Through this bill and future appropriations, the House plans to invest more than $500 million over the next decade in this emerging industry using the same model we employed nearly two decades ago to develop the life sciences sector that has since flourished in this state.
We’ve already seen the transformational potential of offshore wind development in Salem and Somerset, where former gas and coal-fired power plants are being converted to shipping and manufacturing facilities to support offshore wind projects.
The benefits of this investment will not be confined to just offshore wind. The House’s bill will promote our long-term energy storage capabilities, which will lend stability to intermittent energy sources. It will also modernize the electric grid to meet 21st-century demands by better protecting consumers from weather-related power outages and equipping the grid to support the coming rush in renewable energy demand. Because of this bill’s potential to fuel growth in other clean energy industries, it has attracted support from the solar industry and beyond.
Massachusetts is faced with a generational opportunity to take control of its economic and energy future. The Massachusetts House is meeting the moment by taking bold steps to make the state a national powerhouse in offshore wind energy and to do what is necessary to decarbonize our economy and create a cleaner future for everyone.
Ronald J. Mariano, who represents the Third Norfolk District, is speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Jeffrey N. Roy represents the10th Norfolk District and is House chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy.